When you think of healthy, diet-friendly meals, lasagna isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. And in many cases with good reason: Lasagna can be stuffed with excess fatty meat and cheese, and piled high with refined carbs. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be! This lasagna is low in saturated fat, protein- and fiber-rich, jam-packed with veggies, and NOT high-carb (actually pretty low for a meal). Plus, it’s not even made from zucchini. Yes, this is a healthy baked pasta dish that is actually made from real pasta. Amazing, right? Don’t misunderstand, zucchini is wonderful, just for me not the most satiating as the base of a main dish; I would rather grill it or roast it on the side to complete the meal. “Zoodles” and zucchini roll-ups are a no doubt great idea, especially for those who really need to cut carbs, and they can even be delicious in their own right. But I cannot bring myself to accept zucchini as a substitute for pasta; it’s just not the same. (And don’t even get me started on spaghetti squash…) So instead of completely ditching the pasta, I opt for whole grain–a “good carb” option that is also high in protein and fiber. If wheat isn’t your thing, try a gluten-free variety.
Nutrition aside, this is hands-down the best lasagna I’ve ever had. Granted, I’m not a ground beef fanatic, so traditional kinds don’t appeal to me as much, but this has won approval even from the biggest beef lovers. This dish is cheesy, flavorful, comforting, and satisfying. Another thing I love about it is the varying texture: melt-in-your mouth cheeses and spinach, semi-soft noodles, chewy chicken, crisp-tender peppers, and mushrooms (a texture all their own). The combination keeps your taste-buds alive and your mouth from getting bored, which is great because the volume is huge compared to the calories that come with it.
Chicken and Veggie Lasagna
- 90g frozen spinach
- 1/3 cup (75 g) 1% cottage cheese
- 1 egg white
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 oz (1/2 cup) shredded part-skim mozzarella or Italian blend cheese, divided
- 10 g (2 Tbsp) shredded parmesan, divided
- 1/2 – 1 tsp EVOO
- 4 oz chicken breast or 2 strips
- dried oregano, basil, and parsley
- 4 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
- handful sliced yellow onion
- roughly chopped green and/or red bell pepper (about 1/2 pepper)
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 oz whole grain lasagna noodles (3 large)
- 3/4 cup tomato pasta sauce (I recommend Dave’s Red Heirloom)
Preheat oven to 350º, and boil a pot of water with a generous amount of salt. Thaw the spinach in the microwave and press dry with a paper towel. (Get out as much liquid as possible.) Also, if the cottage cheese is runny, drain in a fine-mesh strainer to remove excess liquid. (If it looks thick, you may skip this step.) In a bowl, combine cottage cheese, spinach, egg white, nutmeg, black pepper, 1 oz (1/4 cup) mozzarella, and 5 g (1 Tbsp) parmesan. Set aside.
Next wash the chicken and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Heat EVOO in a medium skillet, add chicken, and sear on both sides until done. Remove and set aside. Meanwhile prep the veggies; just after removing the chicken, add mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion to the hot skillet. Stir to scrape up browned bits, and sprinkle with more pepper and dried herbs if desired. Sauté a couple minutes, until crisp-tender, then stir in garlic (30 sec longer). Remove from heat and set aside.
Boil pasta about 6 minutes, until al dente. Meanwhile, tear chicken into small pieces, measure 3/4 cup sauce, and combine the remaining mozzarella (1/4 cup) and parmesan (1 Tbsp) in a small bowl. Transfer noodles to a sheet of parchment or wax paper and cut each in half to make 6 equal pieces.
In a small casserole dish, layer ~2 Tbsp sauce, 2 pieces pasta (side-by-side), 1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture (divided between the two noodles), 1/2 of the torn chicken, 1/2 of the vegetables, ~3 Tbsp sauce, 2 more pieces pasta, remaining cottage cheese mixture, chicken, and vegetables, ~3 more Tbsp sauce, remaining noodles, and remaining sauce. Sprinkle 1/4 cup mozzarella mixed with 1 Tbsp parmesan on top. Bake at 350º about 30 minutes covered and 5 minutes uncovered, until the cheese is melted and pasta cooked to your liking.
(about 360 cal per serving)
Here I served this with a side salad featuring romaine, sliced carrot and red onion, grape tomatoes, artichokes, roasted red peppers, pimiento-stuffed olives, toasted pine nuts, a little shredded Bruschetta Jack cheese, and a homemade balsamic dijon vinaigrette. Plus a multi-grain roll because why not? 😉